There are a numerous amount of tests used to study and identify cancers, however scientists are creating a new set of medical tests called liquid biopsies. Liquid biopsies have the ability to quickly detect the presence of cancers and infectious diseases from small samples such as a blood samples. At The University of Texas, scientists are developing a new tool for liquid biopsies. This tool will allow scientists to see a complete picture of an individual's cancer or disease.
A professor in the Institute for Cellular and Molecular Biology and Department of Molecular Biosciences, Alan Lambowitz, is studying a specific bacterial enzyme that can detect tiny parts of genetic materials left in the blood stream by cancer or other diseases. As of now, liquid biopsies can detect DNA in blood and sometimes RNA, but miss key RNA markers. The bacterial enzyme being studied detects these key RNA markers, providing scientists with a detailed and accurate description of the cancer or disease in question. A specific group of enzymes that will give liquid biopsies an amazing tool are TGIRTs (thermostable group II intron reverse transcriptase) and they are able to find RNA strands and then create complementary DNA strands that provide diagnostic information. Researchers are still testing these enzymes and constantly searching for ways to improve them and overall improve liquid biopsies.
I believe this research to be a key component to identifying and hopefully treating cancers in the future. I believe finding the TGIRTs are the first step to finding more enzymes that will be able to identifying all forms of cancers.